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Santa Barbara Christian School to Mark 50th Anniversary with Weekend Festivities

The community is invited to view a slide show, photos and other memorabilia

More than 130 alumni, former teachers, administrators and founders will gather at Santa Barbara Christian School this Saturday, July 31, to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary. Guests will be treated to a barbecue dinner, slide show and school memorabilia followed by a moving program.

During the program, the school’s founder, Dr. Paul Wilt, will speak about the original vision for the school 50 years ago. Additional speakers include longtime former administrator, Tirzah Riley and current teacher Cari Svoboda, who will speak about how the school has flourished in the decades that followed.

In the late 1950s, a group of Santa Barbara parents prayerfully approached the issue of how to provide a great education for their sons and daughters while also laying a firm foundation in the truth of the gospel. They wanted the best for their children: an academic program rooted in the truth of God that their children would be able to rely on and stand upon throughout their lives. They felt that the perspective of life offered by the public school system placed humanity first, not God. Indeed, God was being sidelined and has since been discarded from public education.

In September 1960, Santa Barbara Christian School opened its doors. In addition to providing a thorough and godly foundation for students, SBCS was and is committed to a competitive academic program. In 1970, that program was extended to include the junior high. In 1973, SBCS was accredited through the California Association of Christian Schools (now known as ACSI) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Tirzah Riley, a guest speaker during the celebration, was the school’s administrator for 23 years, retiring in 2002. Through her self-professed “wonderful journey,” Riley has many fond memories and stays in touch with many former students.

Starting with the school in August 1979 as the junior high principal, she later served in many capacities: principal, superintendent but mostly chief administrator. In fact, her home office in Santa Barbara is decorated with the seven name plates that at one time were glued to her office door at the school.

When asked about her thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the school and what it means to her, Riley remembers the challenging times the school experienced.

“During the second school accreditation process, I was going through the board meeting minutes, some of which included dealing with a variety of critical issues,” Riley said. “As I was reading, I realized there were so many times when there was no earthly reason that the school should have stayed open. I believe to this day that God has His hand on that tiny little dot on the map and has blessed it. It’s truly a miracle the school is open today and that young lives continue to be changed.”

Following Riley as the new and current head of school, Sandra Calkins continues the school’s commitment to academic excellence based on Christian values.

“I have been involved with Santa Barbara Christian School for the past 26 years; first as a parent, but also a teacher, administrator and as a grandparent,” Calkins said. “Every role and position has brought me blessings beyond my wildest dreams. My heart and my soul praise God for what He has done in my family’s life and in all the thousands of lives and families through SBCS.”

“The founders of our school wanted SBCS to place God first, to establish His word as the primary source of truth, and equip students to live Christ-centered, purpose driven lives. I have had the privilege to witness the changed lives of children and/or their family. Besides the Godly foundation students have received, they have graduated and gone on to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, policemen, firemen, entrepreneurs, missionaries and more. More importantly, however, graduates have gone into the world as witnesses for Christ with a firm foundation not only in the gospel but also in academics, allowing them to bring light to a dark world and truth to the lost.”

For more than 35 years, Roger Hill has been a teacher at Santa Barbara Christian School, years that he says were both challenging and fulfilling.

“It is an honor to be used by our Lord to place foundational bricks and apply the mortar of His Word to the lives of so many children, especially my own four and now my grandchildren,” Hill said. “The ministry is so fulfilling because of the growth that takes place in the lives of the students and the strong relationships that develop amongst us all. It is such a pleasure to have young men and women return and explain how their lives were changed because of the Savior they met here and the lifetime friendships forged in the family we call Santa Barbara Christian School.”

SBCS’s new board president, Barry Goss, is looking forward to another 50 years.

“This remarkable tradition of 50 years of academic excellence and Christian values, which we see in our graduates, their families and in their impact on the community, creates in those who are inheriting this legacy a desire not only to maintain it but to make it better,” Goss said.

The 50th anniversary celebration will take place Saturday on the campus of the Santa Barbara Christian School, located behind Emanuel Lutheran Church at 3723 Modoc Road. While the barbecue dinner is sold out, all in the community are invited to see the slide show, photos and memorabilia in the church’s Luther Hall from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., as well as the program in the sanctuary from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

On Sunday, Aug. 1, all associated with the school, past or present, are invited to gather for a bring-your-own picnic from noon to 3 p.m. at Tucker’s Grove Park.

— Melinda Johansson is a board member and chairwoman of the Marketing & Development Committee for Santa Barbara Christian School.

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